Code Enforcement - Special Magistrate

Special Magistrate
The Special Magistrate is an attorney and member of the Florida Bar who is appointed by the Town Council to preside over code enforcement matters.  The special magistrate shall have all the authority and powers set forth in this part or in F.S. § 162.08.
Any fines or penalties imposed by the Special Magistrate may be recorded as a lien against the real property of the respondent and payable to the Town. Hearings are conducted much like court proceedings with testimony and evidence presented by both the Town (Code Enforcement Officer) and the respondent (Violator). 

Town of Indian Shores, Special Magistrate:  Randy D. Mora, Esq., B.C.S.  

Code Enforcement for Indian Shores:  Building Official

The Code Enforcement for the Town of Indian Shores provides an important function to ensure that the community has the best quality of life maintained by enforcing the Town Code of Ordinance. 

Many code violations are defined as a nuisance (E.g., overgrown hedges, signs, debris and junk). However, some violations are more serious and could impact public safety (E.g., construction, permitting and contractor licensing) The Building Department handles all building and zoning matters relating to code enforcement of the town codes, issuing violations and following up on citizen complaints relating to potential violations.
For any concerns or complaints relating to code enforcement for our community please call the Building Department at 727-517-3940.  


Sec. 2-161. - Definitions.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Code inspector means the town building official and any authorized agent or employee of the town whose duty it is to ensure code compliance.

Costs shall mean:

(1) The cost and expense of prosecuting the violation, including all efforts by the code inspector to obtain compliance before issuing a code enforcement citation;

(2) The wages paid by the town to town staff incurred in prosecuting the violation, including all efforts by the code inspector and town staff to obtain compliance before issuing a code enforcement citation;

(3) The cost and expense of providing notices and orders to the violator;

(4) The cost and expense of recording and filing;

(5) All legal fees and costs incurred in connection with the violation; and

(6) The cost and expense of the special magistrate in hearing and deciding all matters related to the violation.

Repeat violation means a violation of a provision of a code or ordinance by a person who has been previously found by a special magistrate or any other quasi-judicial or judicial process, to have violated or who has admitted violating the same provision within five years prior to the violation, notwithstanding the violations occur at different locations.

Special magistrate means the code enforcement special magistrate appointed by the town council to serve in lieu of a code enforcement board to hear and decide code violations under this section.

Town attorney means the legal counselor for the town.
(Code 1979, § 8-182; Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06; Ord. No. 2009-5, § 1, 9-9-09)

Sec. 2-162. - Intent.

It is the intent of this article to promote, protect and improve the health, safety and welfare of the town's citizens, residents and visitors by providing an equitable, expeditious, effective and inexpensive method of enforcing the various zoning, sign, flood, fire, building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and related technical codes in force within the town's corporate limits as provided in F.S. § 162.02.
(Code 1979, § 8-180)


Sec. 2-181. - Special master.

Code enforcement citations or alleged violations may be heard and decided by a special magistrate appointed by the town council. The special magistrate shall serve at the pleasure of the town council and may be removed or replaced without cause. The special magistrate shall have all the authority and powers set forth in this part or in F.S. § 162.08.
(Code 1979, § 8-183(1); Ord. No. 95-9, § 1, 9-6-95); Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06)

Sec. 2-183. - Powers.

The special magistrate shall have the power to:
(1) Adopt rules for the conduct of code enforcement hearings, subject to amendment or modification by the town council.

(2) Subpoena alleged violators and witnesses to code enforcement hearings. Subpoenas may be served by the police department.

(3) Subpoena evidence.

(4) Take testimony under oath.

(5) Issue orders having the force of law commanding whatever steps are necessary to bring a violation into compliance.
(Code 1979, § 8-186; Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06)


Sec. 2-206. - Initiation of proceedings; notice of violation.

(a) It shall be the duty of the code inspector to initiate enforcement proceedings of the various codes; provided, however, the special magistrate shall not have the power to initiate such enforcement proceedings.

(b) Except as provided in subsections (c) and (d) of this section, if a violation of the codes is found, the code inspector shall notify the violator and give him a reasonable time to correct the violation. Should the violation continue beyond the time specified for correction or the violation is corrected, then recurs beyond the time specified for correction, the code inspector may notify the special magistrate and request a hearing pursuant to the procedure in section 2-207. Notice shall be provided to the violator as provided in section 2-210 and F.S. § 162.12.

(c) If the code inspector has reason to believe a violation presents a serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare, or if the violation is irreparable or irreversible in nature, the code inspector shall make a reasonable effort to notify the violator and may immediately notify the special magistrate and request a hearing.

(d) If a repeat violation is found, the code inspector shall notify the violator but is not required to give the violator a reasonable time to correct the violation. The code inspector, upon notifying the violator of a repeat violation, shall notify the special magistrate and request a hearing. The special magistrate, through the town's clerical staff, shall schedule a hearing and shall provide notice pursuant to section 2-207 and F.S. § 162.12. The case may be presented to the special magistrate even if the repeat violation has been corrected prior to the board hearing, and the notice shall so state. If the repeat violation has been corrected, the special magistrate retains the right to schedule a hearing to determine costs and impose the payment of reasonable enforcement fees upon the repeat violator. The repeat violator may choose to waive his or her rights to this hearing and pay said costs as determined by the special magistrate.

(e) If the owner of property which is subject to an enforcement proceeding before the special magistrate transfers ownership of such property between the time the initial pleading was served and the time of the hearing, such owner shall:

(1) Disclose, in writing, the existence and the nature of the proceeding to the prospective transferee.

(2) Deliver to the prospective transferee a copy of the pleadings, notices, and other materials relating to the code enforcement proceeding received by the transferor.

(3) Disclose, in writing, to the prospective transferee that the new owner will be responsible for compliance with the applicable code and with orders issued in the code enforcement proceeding.

(4) File a notice with the code enforcement official of the transfer of the property, with the identity and address of the new owner and copies of the disclosures made to the new owner, within five days after the date of the transfer.

A failure to make the disclosures described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) before the transfer creates a rebuttable presumption of fraud. If the property is transferred before the hearing, the

proceeding shall not be dismissed, but the new owner shall be provided a reasonable period of time to correct the violation before the hearing is held.
(Code 1979, § 8-184; Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06)

Sec. 2-207. - Conduct of hearing.

(a) Upon request of the code inspector or at such other times as may be necessary, the special magistrate will call code enforcement hearings. The town attorney may act as legal advisor to the code inspector and, if necessary, may present the case. The special magistrate may at any hearing set a future hearing date. Minutes shall be kept of all code enforcement hearings, and all such hearings shall be open to the public. The town council shall provide clerical and administrative personnel as may be reasonably required by the special magistrate for the proper performance of his or her duties.

(b) Each case before the special magistrate shall be presented by a member of the administrative staff of the town.

(c) The special magistrate shall proceed to hear the cases on the agenda for that day. All testimony shall be under oath and shall be recorded. The special magistrate shall take testimony from the code inspector and alleged violator. Formal rules of evidence shall not apply, but fundamental due process shall be observed and govern the proceedings.

(d) At the conclusion of the hearing, the special magistrate shall issue findings of fact, based on evidence of record and conclusions of law, and shall issue an order affording the proper relief consistent with powers granted in this article and F.S. Ch. 162. The order may include a notice that it must be complied with by a specified date.

(e) If the town prevails in prosecuting a case before the special magistrate, it shall be entitled to recover all costs incurred in prosecuting the case and such costs may be included in the lien authorized under subsection 2-208
(Code 1979, § 8-185; Ord. No. 95-9, § 2, 9-6-95; Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06; Ord. No. 2009-5, § 2, 9-9-09)

Sec. 2-208. - Administrative fines; liens.

(a) The special magistrate, upon notification by the code inspector that an order of the special magistrate has not been complied with by the set time, may order the violator to pay a fine which shall not exceed $250.00 per day for a first violation for each day the violation continues to exist past the date set for compliance or $500.00 per day for a repeat violation for each day the repeat violation is found to have occurred by the code inspector. If the violation is a violation described in subsection 2-206(c), the special magistrate shall notify the mayor that the town may make reasonable repairs or corrections which are necessary and required to bring the property into compliance and charge the violator the reasonable cost of repair or correction in addition to any fine imposed pursuant to the section. If the special magistrate finds that the violation is irreparable or irreversible in nature, he or she may impose a fine not to exceed $5,000.00 per violation.

(b) In determining the amount of the fine, if any, the special magistrate shall consider the following factors: 
        (1) The gravity of the violation; 
        (2) Any action taken by the violator to correct the violation; and 
        (3) Any previous violations committed by the violator.

(c) A certified copy of an order imposing a fine may be recorded in the public records and thereafter shall constitute a lien against the land on which the violation exists and upon any other real or personal property owned by the violator, and it may be enforced in the same manner as a court judgment by the sheriffs of the state, including levy against the personal property, but shall not be deemed to be a court judgment except for enforcement purposes. The lien shall be superior to all other liens or encumbrances against the property except taxes, including the liens of mortgages or other encumbrances against the property recorded in the public records. No lien created pursuant to this article may be foreclosed on real property which is a homestead under Section 4, Article X of the State Constitution.

(d) As an alternative to the procedure in this section, a citation may be issued by a code enforcement officer designated by the town council, and if such citation is not complied with the code enforcement official may take the violator directly to court for adjudication as provided in F.S. § 162.21.
(Code 1979, § 8-187; Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06; Ord. No. 2009-5, § 3, 9-9-09)

Sec. 2-209. - Appeal.

An aggrieved party, including the town, may appeal a final administrative order of the special magistrate to the circuit court. Such an appeal shall not be a hearing de novo but shall be limited to appellate review of the record created before the special magistrate. An appeal shall be filed within 30 days of the execution of the order to be appealed.
(Code 1979, § 8-188; Ord. No. 02-3, § 1, 11-12-02; Ord. No. 2006-10, § 1, 8-24-06)